Looking back, childhood experiences have vastly changed from our time.
Change is inevitable, but what about the cost to our children?
Do you remember your childhood?
Were they filled with hide-and-seek, skipping ropes, playing tag and card games? Did you play because your parents told you to, or was it more spontaneous, when friends, siblings and cousins just rounded up and played?
Our children are unlikely to share the same childhood we had.
Today, the norm for many kids is being shuttled from taekwondo to swimming or from math to speech and drama classes.
Parents become Grab mums and dads, as we drive our children from one class to another.
As a mother of three, I get it.
We are raising our children in a different world. We want our children to have the opportunities that our own parents may not have been able to provide us.
Academic demands are getting more challenging. We are bombarded with news of child geniuses and teen entrepreneurs who blazed a trail at an unnaturally early age.
However, what is the cost of this new drive to “give our children the best head-start”?
We all begin at the same place, but are we charting the right path for each child?
Are we placing so many stopovers of non-stop enrichment that we have no time to enjoy the journey?
Here are some signs that your child may be overwhelmed.
Is your child showing signs of anxiousness, reluctance to attend a class, or refusing to continue with a programme? Does she suffer from poor sleep?
Common signs of anxiety in an overwhelmed child are dramatic changes in behaviour/sleep pattern, or inability to concentrate on tasks/ lessons.
Signing your child up for the best math tuition class may not result in the grades you hope for.
Remember that each child has a different learning style and too much studying can be counter-productive.
Rote learning teaches the child to recognise specific questions, but she will be stumped by unfamiliar ones.
Endless worksheets may see her kicking back in protest. There is simply no room for her to exhale and take a step back.
“I’m just not good enough”
This is the inner monologue your child may have, which you may never hear.
Being compared to her peers or siblings may cause her to feel as if she will never be able to measure up.
Trying to keep up can lead to burnout and she will start feeling that nothing she does is ever good enough.
Every child is different
We recognise that every child is different.
Some handle stress better than others, while some need more breathing space.
So, as a parent, ask yourself what you can do to help your child find the right balance?
More free play
Structured enrichment should not displace free play.
Go outdoors and just let your child be.
Parents need not supervise every form of play. Children need opportunities to problem-solve and make their own decisions, without a teacher or adult hovering nearby to give suggestions.
Find time for playdates with friends or cousins.
Group dynamics are a fantastic way for children to learn teamwork.
Good old-fashioned house chores
Kids today are less likely to be assigned chores. They are either too busy with school and enrichment classes, or more often than not, we do everything for them.
House chores are great opportunities for children to learn responsibility and diligence while contributing in a meaningful way to the family.
You may be surprised to find that your child is eager to help around the home.
Helping out with chores provides a natural hum in his rhythm, allowing him to switch off from school demands and homework.
Doing dishes together, or cooking a meal together with your child, also provides a precious opportunity to bond over the day’s events.
Schedule to “un-schedule”
This may sound ironic, but perhaps forcing a “no class time” in his schedule is something he needs.
Find those pockets of downtime and ring-fence them.
No classes, no worksheets, no homework, no competitions.
Replace them instead with less demanding activities such as reading, playing board games, watching a movie or going for a walk.
Share this “un-scheduling” with your child. When the week gets too much, have him look forward to these periods of free time.
Having that goal of downtime can help motivate your child to get through an intensive week.
At times, our desire to give our children the best can lead to unexpected setbacks.
An overwhelmed child is not a happy child.
Stress and anxiety in children are reaching unprecedented levels in today’s world.
We need to strike the right balance between providing enrichment to expand our child’s potential, but at the same time, we need to know when to pull back when it’s too much.
Understand that each child is unique and some are more ready than others.
One of the best quotes that helped me realise each child is different is this: “Every child has a gift. They just open their gifts at different times of their lives.”
Dr Cindy Chan Su Huay is a developmental and behavioural paediatrician. This article is courtesy of the Malaysian Paediatric Association’s Positive Parenting programme in collaboration with expert partners. For further information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader’s own medical care. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to the content appearing in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.
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